Barbara Harvey was born in Plymouth, England, in 1909. After her family moved to Alberta, she attended the Provincial Institute of Design and Technology in Calgary where she met A.C.
Leighton who was both an instructor there and its Art Director. After their marriage on May 31, 1931, Barbara Leighton devoted all her time promoting and managing her husband's artistic career.
After her husband's death in 1965, Barbara returned to the Provincial Institute of Design and Technology, graduating in 1969 with her diploma in fine craft and metalwork. She had a vision for art in the province. In 1970, she turned part of their home into a gallery dedicated to A.C.
Leighton's art and that of his contemporaries. She also purchased and restored an old schoolhouse, Ballihamish, as an art and craft centre for practising artists and as a teaching facility for children. Together, Ballihamish and the gallery became the Leighton Art Centre which was operated by a Foundation established by Barbara in 1974. Over the years, the Centre expanded in membership and size, and Barbara added two other buildings to accommodate classes in batik, copper enamelling, weaving, tie-dyeing, pottery, wood-working, print-making, jewellery-making, and silver-smithing.
In 1984, Barbara received the Alberta Achievement Award for her contribution to
Alberta's arts. Through her determination, tenacity and vision, Barbara was able to establish an art centre that has had a wide influence on the arts in Alberta. Thirty years after its inception, the Leighton Art Centre continues to be a valuable learning resource for children and adults alike.